Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Listen To The Land

Here in Northern Virginia, mid-July through mid-September is generally hot and we don't get much rain. The odd thing this year is that we aren't getting the humid air that we often get. Nice for people, not so good for my plants. My water bill for this quarter is always a bit scary, rain barrel notwithstanding. This year, with lots of new plants having just gone in, I'm giving up lunches out and BPAL to pay for the extra water.

This is also the time of year when a lot of plants are through blooming and have gone to work setting seed, dying back, getting ready for rest. (You should see my dill!) There are a few flowers, and thank the Goddess many of them are long-lasting, that show up in July and provide some color. I'm grateful for black-eyed Susan, Queen Anne's lace, sunflowers, and daisies. Datura is still to come and it will, of course, be spectacular!

It's also serious mosquito season. Arlington, Virginia was invaded a number of years ago by tiger mosquitoes, of whom Wikipedia says: "Later, the species was assigned to the genus Aedes (gr. άηδής, "unpleasant,)" and which are just plain nasty and one of the few living things that I kill with what Dorothy Parker once called "never a stab nor squirm." I'm both a mosquito-magnet (the one person at the picnic getting bitten all over while everyone else says, "What mosquitoes?") and very allergic to their bites. I never go outside, even for a few minutes, without anointing myself with the Sacred Oil of the Goddess Deet, but, even then, I get some bites. This weekend, I ran out of hydrocortisone cream and tried an old folk remedy: rubbing the bite with the inside of a banana peel. It really works and it works for a long time! Bit odd to head off for work in the morning smelling of banana, but it's better than the itch.

We've has fireflies since about the Solstice, and they're still going strong. Sitting on the screen porch and watching them as evening falls is one of the most calming things I know how to do. Every year that they come back to my yard is like a blessing, a benediction, a sign, like fermentation, that the Goddess loves me and wants me to be happy. Light pollution makes the stars difficult to see, especially in Summer, but I can see fireflies.

The woad set its seeds a while back, and the goldfinches have stripped a number of the branches bare. They don't like for me to watch them, but sometimes I can't help myself; they're the same color yellow as the woad flowers! I harvest the bare branches for Autumn arrangements. I have two sets of cardinals at my feeder, a BIG blue jay, assorted small birds, some very cute chipmunks, and, of course, the squirrels. The mourning doves are still all over, and their cooing is like an undertone; the robins still inhabit the front yard but avoid the back unless I water, and I have not seen "my" eagle on Teddy Roosevelt Island this year.

The activity level is picking up; there's a new urgency since the Solstice: "What can we put away? How much? How much can we store?" Even with fairly long days and a blazing sun, I find myself thinking about the Ren Faire, about getting the leaves raked this Fall, about giving an accounting of myself, to myself, at Samhein, about snuggling under comforters and flannel. My wonderful circle of amazing women had our planning meeting this weekend, and it's not all that odd to be planning Lughnasadah, Mabon, Samhein, Yule. If you spend some time teaching yourself to ride the wheel, of course you can feel it shifting.

The Potomac River's gone down a bit from its rain-swollen high mark. The water's less muddy, more placid, more green. In the early evening, it begs you to get in a row boat and trail your hand in the water, the way a lover implores you to "do it again, touch me, there, again, again." Spout Run is lower, too, surrounded on both sides by so many trees and bushy weeds and odd flowers, that I want, every morning, not to keep driving to work, but to park, get out, wade, talk, make friends, be. The sea, which seldom if ever calls to me, or at least can't call nearly as loudly as the mountains, has been thrumming my name, insistent, refusing to be denied. "Later, I tell her. Later, when I can afford it, when I'm not so busy, . . . when I don't distrust you quite as much."

My point, and, as often is true, it's buried, is that you can't really be in relationship with the land, with plants and animals and seasons, unless you, well, get to know the land. Mid July is different in DC than it is on the New England shore. It's different than mid-July in San Francisco and on PIke's Peak. What is it like where you live? What can you feel coming? What's just gone that you'll miss (for me, it's the white Asiatic lilies and their scent, strawberries, falling asleep and waking up to rain, iris)? How will you deepen your relationship with the land? What will you look for next year that you didn't know to look for this year?

Some people find (I do) that it's helpful, especially at first, to keep a journal. It's helpful to go outside, sit by a tree or a river or an ocean or a hill and ground and simply ask: "What would you like to tell me?" It's helpful to get involved: plant something, water something, feed some animal, pick up some trash, walk somewhere in the early morning, the late evening, the dark of night. Ask Tarot how to talk to the land (don't be surprised if you pull the Fool, the 7 of Pentacles, the Lovers, the 9 of Pentacles, Temperance or the Star.) Ask the land how to talk to it. Ask your Younger Self how to talk to the land. Ask a robin, or a squirrel, or a butterfly.

Only, connect.


TheOtherWA said...

The inside of a banana peel, huh? I'll try it next time the skeeters get me.

I was in the midwest last week and was bitten several times on the foot. The itching was driving me crazy. A relative suggested plain old vinegar. It sounded crazy, but figured it couldn't hurt. Turned out, it worked quite well. The downside was I smelled like an easter egg. Banana would be much more pleasant. :)

Anonymous said...

Banana peels? The skeeters are very bad this year, so I'll have to try it.

the weather this weekend is going to be more like mid September, so now I'm thinking of leaf raking, hot cider, etc. And of what to plant next spring, when the house will be resided/painted and scaffolding gone and the landlords and I can figure out what to plant and where. I can't wait.

Buckeye ...

Aquila ka Hecate said...

Mid July in Johannesburg is dry and very cold.
Although our temperatures range from minimum in the single digits Celsius (and sometimes negative single digits), with maximums in the lower teens - and that may seem quite warm to someone in Northern Europe or the US - we really feel the bite of Winter in this month.
Pruning is done now, as the frost often gets into the domesticated plants, and the deciduous trees are all starkly bare by this time of year.

It's the time when I get into my office in the morrning well before sunrise, and leave after sunset.

Yes, you can feel the lock-down of Frozen Earth distinctly.

But, as with you, right around now, we can also feel the first vibrations of the coming Imbolc. Spring bulbs have been planted, and we anticipate their flowering. The sun is ever so slightly higher in the sky, and we know that we truly don't have much further to go.

Terri in Joburg

Rue said...

I miss the foxglove and the yarrow already - although they've just faded. The columbine has been gone for a while now - but I miss those happy shooting stars too.

July is beyond hot in Southern British Columbia. Up to 42 degrees celcius...around 100F! But it only lasts for a week or two, then comes back down to the 80's and 90's and we can breathe again.

Wish we had fireflies....

Anne Johnson said...

I don't know what happened to the Queen Anne's Lace in my yard. I don't have any this year. It's my favorite. However, my milkweed is blossoming. Monday I saw a hummingbird on my butterfly bush.

I share your mixed emotions about the beach -- just returned from a day trip, no change in opinion -- but the Chesapeake Bay is fabulous (though ailing). St. Michaels and Oxford are closer to D.C. and somewhat less expensive too.

pluky said...

I sit on the back steps at dusk and try to count the bats as they exit the bathouse on the side of the barn. Given the outrageous losses from Smutty Nose lately, it's a comfort to know my little sanctuary exists.